Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Modest Proposal: Part 2 For the Revitalization of the Quaker Message in the United States

While it may seem that I am being a bit research heavy in these early posts, it does all have point. The point is to make decisions and/or proposals from a basis more solid than hunches or impressions. It does seem, to me, to be statistically significant to see what 350,000 congregation members (Christian and n0n-Christian) have to say about their congregations' strengths and weaknesses (US Congregations). And that's just one example.

The research shows that vital congregations share (across denominational/faith lines) certain characteristics.

  • Vital congregations help people grow spiritually. - -They focus on the long-term development of the ministry of the entire congregation (spiritual development and providing ministry opportunities).
  • Vital congregations encourage participation. -- They move people into meaningful ministry roles. They ask attendees what they feel passionate about and what they see as their ministry. They identify what types of new people the congregation attracts (e.g., returnees, switchers). They ask new people what made the congregation attractive to them. They create small group experiences, such as prayer or study groups.
  • Vital congregations offer meaningful worship experiences. -- They evaluate current worship service for vitality and involvement (by all age groups).
  • Vital congregations welcome new people. -- They increase the visibility of the congregation in the community (e.g., Web site, Twitter, paid newspaper and telephone book ads, good outdoor signage, participation in community events). They encourage members to invite others and give them the tools to invite effectively (e.g. Bring a Friend Sundays, special events). They identify and make personal and telephone follow-up contact with all visitors, especially first time worship visitors. They offer a group for new attendees.
  • Vital congregations commit to a positive future. --They identify congregational strengths and ask how the congregation can optimize and leverage these strengths? They evaluate current congregation organization and committee structure and then minimize the number of maintenance committees. They create ministry teams (worship, education, outreach) instead of standing committees.

The second part of my modest proposal is for our congregations to look at these characteristics and actions and ask "Which of these is an accurate representation of our congregation?" "Are we doing things that commit to a positive future, provide meaningful worship for all ages, welcome new people, etc?

Or do we behave more like the people in this video parable?

So again some congregational queries, as part of Part 2 of a modest proposal.

  • Who are we?
  • Why do we exist -- what's our mission?
  • What is God calling us to be and do?
  • Do we welcome others?
  • How do we relate to our community?
  • How do we adapt to change?

These are queries the entire congregation should work on -- not just a committee or some named congregational leaders (i.e., a pastor. And please note, I think this is the first time I've used the word/role in any of my posts on this topic). There are a variety of ways that you can do this. I recommend "World Cafe'" -- it is very participational and fits well with Friends.

-- Brent


Bill said...

Good questions - but they all involve "we."
One of the most cherished values in our culture today is personal autonomy. This creates a roadblock to answering "we" questions. Will I let go of my point of view if the congregation is in a different place?
And this desire for autonomy is independent of theology. Liberal or evangelical, programmed or unprogrammed, it is hard to get to "we." (although I think some conservative friends are still able to understand the corporate work involved in being a congregation)

Brent Bill said...

Perhaps then, one of the key roles of a congregational leader (pastoral or other) is to foster places/opportunities to explore "we-ness" -- and to participate in it.

If there is no "we," then why do we need a congregation? Hmmm, perhaps Bonhoeffer's "Life Together" could be used as a study guide.